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1ST LEAD IOC boss Bach defends Russia ruling, says IOC can't be blamed By John Bagratuni, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - The Russian doping affair is no embarrassment for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which did the right thing not to impose a blanket ban on the nation‘s athletes for the Rio de Janeiro Games, IOC president Thomas Bach said Sunday.

Bach told a news conference that the IOC was not responsible for the timing of a report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren on allegations of widespread state-sponsored doping in Russia, nor for the fact that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) did not investigate early reports alleging doping in Russia.

The IOC faces a race against time to check the eligibility of Russians cleared by their sports‘ federations for the Rio Olympics, which open Friday.

"The IOC can not be made responsible for the timing and reasons," Bach said. "It won‘t be damaging in the end. People realize we had to take a decision now."

Bach said that further measures are to be taken after Rio and once McLaren has finalized his report. The president said he has not been in contact with Russian officials and politicians lately.

McLaren‘s July 18 report said Russia operated a state-run system of cheating, in which doping samples were tampered with and positive drugs tests turned into negative results by doping laboratories in Moscow and Sochi. Both the sport ministry and the domestic intelligence service were involved in the doping programme.

The WADA board called for a blanket ban on Russia, but the IOC executive board decided July 24 only to deny Russians with a doping history a place in Rio while letting the international sports federations decide on the eligibility of Russians, with a Court of Arbitration for Sports panel then checking the results and the IOC making a final decision.

The decision was harshly criticized by athletes, national anti-doping agencies and the Western media, and Bach achnowledged it was "an attack on everything we represent - an attack on the Olympic Games and its values."

He insisted the IOC had to carefully strike a balance between collective punishments and the rights of individuals.

"It would not be justifiable from moral and legal grounds. Everyone is entitled to certain rights of natural justice," Bach said.

Bach admitted that the much-criticized exclusion of whistleblower Yulia Stepanova from the Games was "a difficult decision." The IOC "appreciates the contribution of Stepanova" but must "respect the Olympic Charter," he said.

Stepanova and her husband, who formerly worked for the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, shared her knowledge with German state television ARD, which made the first major broadcast in December 2014 on doping in Russia.

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